Croatian deputy prime minister and leader of the senior ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Tomislav Karamarko, resigned from his post on June 15 amid a growing political crisis in the country. The Croatian parliament is expected to hold a vote of confidence, called by the HDZ, in Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic on June 16.
With the HDZ no longer behind him, Oreskovic is not expected to hold onto his post. The HDZ claims it has a new coalition in place, and wants Finance Minister Zdravko Maric to be the new prime minister.
“I resign as first deputy prime minister... I hereby announce a symbolic act to show that I’m willing to compromise when it comes to government stability and Croatia’s future,” Karamarko wrote on his Facebook page. “I’m sure we can make it to rearrange the government and [continue] our programme that we have been preparing for so long. I’ll still be a fervent advocate of the progress of the republic of Croatia.”
Karamarko also called on both PM Oreskovic and his fellow deputy prime minister, Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) leader Bozo Petrov, to resign.
Earlier on June 15, the parliamentary conflict of interest committee said that Karamarko had been guilty of a conflict of interest over his wife’s business links to a lobbyist working for the Hungarian energy company MOL. Karamarko had also faced a confidence vote on the issue, called by the opposition Social Democratic Party, but this became irrelevant when the HDZ filed a no-confidence motion against Oreskovic.
In his Facebook post, Karamarko said his decision to resign had nothing to do with the committee’s decision and that he would use “all legal means” to prove that there was no conflict of interest.
His decision is believed to be a part of the strategy of the Patriotic Coalition, led by the HZD, in advance of new rounds of coalition talks following the expected fall of the current government.
Tim Ash from Nomura Securities wrote in a June 15 analyst note that Karamarko’s decision to step down opens the way for Maric’s appointment as prime minister.
However, it is not yet clear how the HDZ has managed to put together a new majority. Early elections still seem to be a strong possibility looking at the current parliamentary arithmetic, although a possible snap election seems unlikely to bring about a radically different result from last November’s election, and is even less likely to address Croatia’s deep-seated economic challenges.
On the other hand, Ash pointed out in a note earlier on June 15 that, “Neither the HDZ or the Most really want early elections given their diminishing poll ratings, so some deal will be done to sustain Zdravko Maric in office, either with a formal majority or in minority capacity with tacit support of the Most.”